RUSAL must meet with the Union – Min. Scott

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DPI, Guyana, Monday, March 4, 2019

Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott today said United Company Russian Aluminum (RUSAL) would eventually have to meet with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) as industrial relations practice dictates such.

The minister was speaking to the media moments after representatives of the Aluminum company refused to participate in a planned conciliatory meeting with the union earlier today.

According to Minister Scott, RUSAL will have to meet with the union to return to the “status quo.” He restated that the government’s core interest at this point is the wellbeing of its citizens.

“As a government, our biggest concern has to be our workers, and that comes first. While we are pro-investors and like to encourage investment, we must maintain a stable industrial climate. Our country comes first, and that is a priority,” he told the media. 

Minister Scott said the aluminium company is expected to present some proposals they have to the government which will be shared with the union.  He said a decision will be made soon after.

Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally had argued at previous meetings with workers and RUSAL, that the GB&GWU is a legitimate body and must be respected by any company operating in Guyana.

Without prior notification, the two representatives, Director of Aluminum and Bauxite Department, Vladimir Permyakov and Personnel Manager, Mikhail Krupenin turned up at the Labour Department’s Brickdam office, but told Chief Labour Officer (CLO), Charles Ogle, that they will not meet the workers’ representative in the presence of Union President, Lincoln Lewis.

Meanwhile, Lewis, who is also General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) said while the request is unfortunate, he will not heed the call from RUSAL.

“I am not prepared to do that, recuse, for what? He questioned. They came and met me here, they will have to leave me here” Lewis told members of the media. He said it is clear his stance has made the company very uncomfortable.

The union has been resolute in its request to meet with the aluminium company especially since there has not been a Collective Bargaining Agreement within the last ten years.

RUSAL has been butting heads with Guyanese workers at its Maple town Aroaima, Region 10 operation after more than 61 workers were dismissed following strike actions last month. Thirty more were later informed that their services were no longer required.

The government has been supporting the Guyanese workers, engaging with the company over time seeking a swift resolution to the issue.

Alexis Rodney.

Images: Marceano Narine.